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Kids at MAC clinic in Detroit go to football school

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Detroit — Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush did something Tuesday he never had done in his football career:

He stood in the middle of Ford Field, putting several players from the Police Athletic League through drills during a free youth clinic sponsored by the Mid-American Conference.

“It’s definitely something different,” he said. “It’s awesome for the kids. Everyone is having a good time.”

Close to 550 kids took advantage of the opportunity, including 12-year-old Detroiter Maurice Watkins, who plays for the Spartans in the PAL.

“It’s a blessing,” Watkins said before taking part in a drill for linemen. “It’s good because you learn a lot of stuff and you’re meeting college football players.”

Nearly two dozen players and coaches from MAC teams took part in the clinic, including Western Michigan running back Jarvion Franklin, the reigning offensive player of the year.

Rush and offensive coordinator Morris Watts were among the handful of coaches and players representing Central Michigan.

PAL Eastside commissioner Greg Hicks was beaming as he looked at the kids on the field.

“It’s great; the fourth year we’ve had this clinic,” Hicks said. “We started with 200 kids the first year, and we have some 550 here. They look forward to this clinic every year.”

Oak Park’s Tina Valentine was watching her son, 10-year-old Elijah Valentine of the Ravens, participate.

“It’s a good opportunity for the children to meet up with their mentors,” she said. “They have watched them on TV and now it’s real for them. They have an idea of what’s in store for them if they work hard.”

Bonamego ‘attacking’ cancer

First-year Central Michigan coach John Bonamego missed the clinic as he continues to fight cancer (left tonsil).

Bonamego, 51, is going through treatment, and will continue when two-a-days begin Aug. 7.

Watts, however, knows his coach is up for the challenge.

“He’s not letting it attack him, he’s attacking it,” Watts said. “He’s not shying away from anything. It’s impressive. We were working on practice plans (Monday).

“It will get harder when he goes through more treatment. It will zap his energy, but I’m sure he’ll be right there at two-a-days. ... He will be on the sidelines when we play the opener against Oklahoma State (on Sept. 3).”

Said Rush: “We’re praying for him and he’ll beat it. One hundred percent, he’ll be on the sidelines for that opener. For him right now, it’s been business as usual. He’ll get his treatment and then he’s back in the office ... every day.”